- The Washington Times - Friday, May 1, 2009

Carrie Prejean, a frontrunner for the Miss USA title who finished second after she voiced her opposition to gay marriage, gave short shrift at a local press conference Thursday, barely speaking 10 minutes before walking out.

“I encourage people to stand up for what they believe in and not be afraid,” she said at the National Press Club. “I had a choice to say what I believe in or compromise that.”

In Washington for several TV appearances, she was at the Press Club to join forces with the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which is mounting a $1.5 million ad campaign against same-sex marriage.

Miss Prejean became a national sensation last week after she was asked at the April 19 Miss USA pageant whether every state should legalize gay marriage. Gay blogger Perez Hilton, the pageant judge who posed the question, later used an expletive to describe her in his video blog and admitted he had scored her poorly over the answer and said his vote caused her to lose the contest to Kristen Dalton, Miss North Carolina.

“I gave him an answer,” she said, “and because of that, I was called names, I made fun of, I was mocked. It has become a huge issue. I never thought by entering a beauty contest that this would be happening right now. There are people making fun of me, saying I am trying to press my religious beliefs on people.”

Meanwhile Thursday, on the other side of the Potomac, the tycoon co-owner of the Miss Universe Organization that produces the contest said he had helped select Perez Hilton as a judge and thought the gay blogger, whose real name is Mario Armando Lavandeira Jr., had done a good job.

Donald Trump did not seem to express any regret about the pageant fallout and said he had selected Mr. Lavandeira because “he’s just another guy.”

“He was a good judge and asked some tough questions,” Mr. Trump explained to The Washington Times at a Sterling, Va., press conference to announce a golf club deal.

Miss Prejean’s conference at the National Press Club had a few touches of the ridiculous.

One reporter asked her whether she had had breast implants - which has been reported on the Internet; the Miss California organization has said it paid for them - and another asked whether she would date formerly gay men.

She refused to respond to either question. She then left, ostensibly to catch a plane.

“This has been a very strange week for me,” Miss Prejean said in brief introductory remarks. “This is not exactly what I’d planned or asked or wanted.”

She also termed a question from The Times as to whether she will enter politics as “silly” but added she had no plans to do so.

NOM is including video of Miss Prejean’s answer in its ad campaign, called “No Offense,” after a phrase in her answer.

Its president, Maggie Gallagher, says the push to legalize same-sex marriage has significant implications for religious liberty, because proponents of traditional marriage tend to be religious believers whose views are increasingly being labeled as bigoted or racist.

Backers of same-sex marriage “want to browbeat and silence opposition,” said Brian S. Brown, NOM executive director.

“But no matter how loudly they yell,” he added, “their attacks on supporters of marriage will fail because people of integrity will speak the truth - whether they are in pulpits, law schools or even beauty pageants.”

• Stephanie Green contributed to this report.

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